Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A poorly chook

The beautiful Blue isn't well, so I gave her her dinner separately today and, as she hung out for a bit with me, yoghurty beak and all, I couldn't resist a photo or two...

That's one mucky beak, she looks like she's dip-dyed it!

Purple Seedhead, Wordless Wednesday 25th July 2012

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Wardrobe pocket organiser... or the smalls holder!

I have some nice underwear, I really do.  Most of the time however it sits in a drawer forgotten about and so this week, one of my little projects was to make a pocket organiser to hang inside the wardrobe door and hold my lovely smalls.  You can blame it on/thank 50 Shades, it seems almost anything is at the moment! ;o)

I re-purposed a blind that used to hang in my old kitchen... top right hand corner of the gratuitous photo of my friends dressed as pirates and, if you look carefully, an octopus!

It was a pretty rough and ready sewathon, it took less than an hour to make.  

I cut the back (it's prelined from its days as a blind) piece out, 20" wide and 25" tall (I allowed 1" on each edge for hemming), using as many pre-existing finished edges as I could to minimise sewing.  The cut edges I neatened with a row of zigzag stitch and the two long sides I turned and hemmed.  I also kept details from the blind such as the buttons along the top as a decorative detail.

The organiser has 9 pockets approximately 6" x 6" big.  I cut 8" wide x 19" long strips of fabric, giving myself an inch top and bottom to hem them and a 1/2" turn in each side.  Starting from the bottom I sewed them onto the backing.  For the bottom row I used a piece that was pre-hemmed and stitched it over the unfinished edge of the backing before folding it over to encase the bottom edge.

The outside edges were then folded in line with the outer edge and stitched in place.

And the one large pocket separated into three, 6" wide each, with a single vertical line of stitching.

The next two rows followed in much the same way, the bottom seam sewn right side to right side and folded over, edges turned in and pocket seams sewn at 6" gaps.

So there you have it, by no means a work of (stitched) art but a quick and easy to make, useful bit of re-purposing and the fabric is one of my favourites, a really cheerful modern floral; it made a nice change from acres of white cotton!

Seams, seams, seams...

I know, it's blue, I quite like the blue...

Phew!  They're all done, it's been a labour... of love? not so sure about that but very much worth the effort.  Cuffs and hem to go and I can get back to the fun stuff like the big oversleeves, I'm quite excited by the prospect of them :o)

Monday, 23 July 2012

It's quiet...

As the lovely boyf closed the door behind him this morning, the silence was heavy in the pit of my stomach; butterflies hovering nervously above.  He is on a last minute business trip to Boston, the 11 yr old is in Devon with her Dad… it’s just me and the dogs (ok, and the cat, chooks, fish and hamster!)

I used to love silence, I was a curl up with a book in my room kinda gal.  Then came growing up, work, marriage, baby and all the accompanying noise, broken up briefly by the thundering silence of the divorce, before being filled again with new friends and family (both two legged and four). 

I have actively cultivated a busy, noisy life and when the boyf, now a firm fixture in that life, started travelling more frequently it would throw me into such a panic.  I was too reliant on our busy, managing-the-day-together camaraderie.  Such  things can't last however, it was time to grow up again and I am now slowly learning to find my way back to the joy of real silence and my own company.

It is surprising how much free time you have when there is just yourself to mind and, instead of worrying about how to fill it, I have a schedule of things I'd like to get done, if I have time.  Little projects that on a normal busy day would never make it past a thought.  I have enjoyed a day of dog walks, dinner in the garden, painting and stitching.  I am looking forward to it all again tomorrow, and Wednesday too. 

By Thursday I'll be itching for my two back home, which they will be... bringing with them that lovely chatter of home and family.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Stepping stones

Well it's done, it's happened, the 11yr old has left primary school.  Somewhere in all the chaos of the past couple of weeks, the enormity of the "moment" has been lost on me.  It being her second primary school also dilutes the emotion; two years of memories are easier to say goodbye to than your whole educated life to date.  But it is a moment, one of the first stepping stones out of childhood, and as I watched her at the Leaver's Ceremony yesterday I couldn't help a small lump in the throat. 

Held in our church (my third in a month, and on reflection my favourite in it's simple austerity), each of the eight leavers had to give a small speech about what they would miss.  In the midst of seven different memories of flavoured milks and Mrs C's (Year 2) obsession with Cliff Richard, my little one (with two, less colourful, years to remember) thanked me for taking her out of her old school and moving her to this one.  That was my moment, finally really knowing that I did the right thing, because she knows it too. 

And, in amongst the tears and smiles, we Mums couldn't sing in time or tune to the hymns and are still not too old to have our subsequent giggles silenced, by a look, from the headmistress; it was a good afternoon!

Followed by the Leaver's Disco and another stark illustration that she's not my baby anymore...

The outfit is all her own, the bracelet a 'corsage' (she's her mother's daughter) and the makeup a great deal more subtle than I first feared!  She wanted a "family photo" bless her; the chooks clucked off, Finn was far more interested in the cat escaping over the fence and Megs, well you can see what she thinks of posing for photos! 

Monday, 16 July 2012

A Smock Gusset, or two

Do you know how hard it is to sew with a dobe and a puppy on your lap?  No, well, it's not easy, and occasionally painful, and bad on the eyes, and causes the odd wonky stitch; but you all know that I wouldn't change it for anything.  I sit most nights now with my nose virtually in the armpit of my smock, trying to keep it away from fidgety on my lap, whilst the big fidget leans in from the side.  The dobe, whilst not doing my back much good with her 30kg+ of leaning at least knows to stay away from the fabric.  The Finn, he's yet to completely catch on!

So, the stitching goes slowly - I am actually debating sneaking off to my car during the lunch hour at work - but it's given me a chance to take some pictures of the underarm gussets.

The inside of the gusset, set into the top of the side seam and the corresponding sleeve seam.

The gusset from the outside.

And shown face on, it opens up the armpit quite a bit allowing a greater flow of air, the Tudor's answer to deodorant!

I have actually finished one thing; the shoulder seams.  I decided to use binding instead of simply turning them in: one, to strengthen them as they are so narrow and, two, in the hope that it will also help them stay put on my shoulders!  Handstiched to the edge, folded over and stitched in place along the shoulder/sleeve seam, they do feel a good deal more secure.  The front and back necklines I just turned and hemmed, the binding gave them a rigidity which, after some debate, I decided against.  The other necklines of the outfit are all so rigid, I liked that this one is a little softer, freer.

The shoulders, the edge finished with binding.

A foodie diversion... Snow Pea Salad and Vegan Nutella

I couldn't resist pictures of this salad, all thanks to the Cowgirl Chef.  Stir-fried Snow Peas, or in my case, Sweet Peas are a revelation.  I'd be lying if I didn't say that this takes some cooking, but it is a salad well worth (the effort and) trying, I added some cous cous too (we were a little short on quinoa) and you won't get the full experience without the dreessing... so don't skimp on it!

And this is for my good friend L, as promised my first vegan Nutella recipe.

2 cups roasted hazelnuts with as much of the skin removed as possible
1/3 cup cocoa powder, I used dark for this recipe, would try it again with a vegan "milk" chocolate powder for a more Nutella-brand taste
1/3 cup agave nectar (1/4 cup with a sweeter cocoa).
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup non-dairy milk, I used almond, but would try coconut for added sweetness.
1-2 tsp olive oil.

Once the hazelnuts were cooled, I ground them to fine in my blender.  I then added everything else, bar the olive oil and blitzed till smooth.  I can't get my blender to blend to a totally smooth paste, but I like the tiny bits of ground hazelnut, it feels more authentic!  I then slowly added the olive oil, to loosen the paste as it was very thick and will thicken some more in the fridge.  You could also use more milk to thin it a little.

It is glorious, rich, adult Nutella and glorious on warm toast... such a shame the 11yr old isn't that keen and will "wait for the Nutellary one" :o)

I'm also thinking that this would be just amazing with chilli in it... or vodka... and I know just the people to try it on!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Sleeping Pups, Wordless Wednesday 11th July 2012

Something new

The internet is full of articles on how to get your blog to make money, gain legions of readers, become your second income etc.  That's not what I want mine to become, but I do like the part in all of it that talks about structuring your written output (to draw in regular readers).  It appeals to my hint o'OCD, I like structure; not that I see "Make It Mondays" or "Foodie Friday's" in my near future.  I do however rather like the idea of "Wordless Wednesdays", that once a week I'll post a picture and nothing more.  It is an extension of the 365 projects that are also so popular at the moment; I would love to have the time and perseverance for such a project, I seriously considered it at the start of this year, but I know myself too well.  It's not so much about the self discipline, as it is about finding a photo a day that I think would be worthy of the record; pictures of my cooker hood or the umpteenth of the dogs sleeping would soon be pretty dull!  So, as this is supposed to be wordless, I'll say no more and instead start my first of the Wordless Wednesday series with a picture of.....

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Elizabethan Smock, the hiatus is over

On my gravestone, they can write "She lived her life well, can someone now please do the ironing."  Never my most favourite of jobs (unless it is to press some sewing, then I'm a very happy ironer) it seems to have flourished since we came back from holiday, and the ironing pile had to be tackled so that I could get my dining room back, so that (more importantly) I could then turn it back into my sewing room... I have my priorities straight!

Finally today the ironing was done and I celebrated by getting the body of the smock sewn together.  It's interesting to make, with it's sleeve gussets and the flaired side panels but I didn't take photos.  I have to sew all the seams, so I may take some of it's construction then, but today I just wanted to see progress.  Instead I tried it on and the 11 yr old (who wants to be a photographer if the palaeontologist, make up artist, singer routes don't work out) took some photos.  The instructions say to check the fit of the neckline under the kirtle, and as I'd so drastically altered it (here), I was keen to see that I hadn't ruined it!

On it's own, it's not the most attractive thing!  The measurements are funny again and I'd argue, too small.  The side panels join at the base of the armholes and that width is very, very narrow.  I couldn't get the smock on my tailors dummy, it wouldn't go over Miss G's rigid shoulders, and even with the benefit of my more flexible shoulders, it's a squeeze to get in and out of it.

The sleeves are unfinished, they have a cuff and frill at the end.   They are long and very deep, the spare fabric will be pulled through slits in the over sleeves.

Although the shoulders will not stay on without the kirtle, it holds them in place nicely when on.  I'm also really pleased to have got the recommended 1" show above the kirtle bodice.  It also proves my thoughts about the original design, which would have left me with over 6" of smock showing above the kirtle.  I really must review the pattern and measurements at some point, if only for my own sanity!  I can't believe that it was meant to be as it was turning out before I made the amendments.

Which that brings me to the only problem with my adjustments... I cut the front and back panels to match, which was downright silly of me and I knew it at the time.  I was too impatient to wait for more fabric to be ordered/arrive and so uncertain about the whole thing that I wasn't sure I wouldn't be starting all over again anyway.  One day, I'll revisit the pattern again and see, with the benefit of a little experience, if I can't make the instructions work for me.  For now, I'm going to stick with this smock, as the back will be covered by the top gown... there's lots of seams to finish, cuffs and a hem to sew. 

The Starry Night Wall

In the 11 yr old's small bedroom, when it was the room she slept in, I painted the end wall and she wanted me to do the same in the larger room, now that her bed is in there.  It's the Starry Night wall, complete with glow in the dark stars and it's a lovely and simple paint effect, which uses three paints all from Craig & Rose: the 1829 Clove Brown, in Acrylic Eggshell, for a muted sheen; the Opulence Metallic Shimmer in Ivory and the Glitter Glaze in Gold Sparkle.  

It takes 2-3 coats of Clove Brown to cover the wallpaper; thin coats to minimise the possibility of it bubbling.  The second coat is the metallic shimmer, which I put on with a scrunched up rag.  I'm trying to create an image of deep space, where the stars are massed so tightly that they look like broad bands of light against the dark sky.  Depth is created with heavier layers on top of lighter ones, and the brightest nebula's painted on with my finger.  The trick is to keep changing the direction of your hand, rescrunching the rag to change the surface texture and to work quickly and lightly. Lighter areas are smeared on in a circular motion before being softened by blotting; thicker areas are blotted on directly. 

Whilst the shimmer is still damp, I applied the glitter glaze.  I use the same rag and repeated the same technique of patting on the glaze.  The glitter is set in a clear glaze which can also be used to start softening the shimmer.  Both paints dry quite quickly, so you need to move around the wall, working with areas before they dry, adding extra layers of glitter on top of the dry ones to increase it's density. 

Glitter is extraordinarily hard to photograph!
Finally, you stick on the stars.  I mix up random groupings with the odd constellation; in particular the Big Dipper which has always watched over me.  The whole wall took not much more than an hour to paint; plus the eggshell layers, which took 20 minutes each over three days to allow them to dry fully.

And we have one wall.  I have always had glowy stars in the 11 yr old's room as I find them very calming.  This same set started off above her cot and I still love to turn off her bedroom light and see them suddenly catch light.  I have to repaint the rest of the blue walls and rehang her pictures, but we're getting there; at least she also now has a mattress and duvet that fit, thanks to an hour in Ikea and a very patient boyf!

Friday, 6 July 2012

My guilty project (neé pleasure)

I'm certain I'm not the only stitcher/crafter to have a guilty project.   You know, the one you started with all the best intentions, were probably even pretty excited about (maybe, even, still are) but have never quite managed to get off the ground. 

Mine started when the 11 yr old was a 4 yr old.  She had just moved into her first big bed and I wanted to commemorate the moment.  The idea was to make what would (one day) be a panel for a quilt.  Based on a series of drawings by Jane Ray (worth a Google, her illustrations are extraordinary) it is a long panel (just over 3ft in width) showing a floor of a house, with three rooms: a sleeping girl in her bedroom, a central hallway, and a second room, home to our rocking horse (of which she is very fond) and our one pet at the time, Rascal the cat.  The idea was to combine embroidery and handsewn applique with some beading and possibly a little quilting too. 

(Double click for a larger image)
Not the most confident artist, it took months to decide on, redraw and then transpose the design onto some off-white cotton.  It then sat for a few more months whilst I tried to come up with a plan of what to do, before I finally made a move with the part that interested me most, the bed quilt.  So, the girl lies under a very pretty quilt, and not a great deal has happened since!  A couple of years ago there was a redesign of the hallway and second room to include more of the menagerie (a chook and Megs, if I remember rightly) but those drawings were packed away in the move... I'm not entirely sure where!  I've never quite figured out why it's taken so long to progress; I love the idea, like the design and would love to see it finished.  It's on a frame and cumbersome to work with, but that's no great excuse; perhaps it is just a little too intimidating, or time consuming, or easy to walk past tucked, as it is, next to the wardrobe. 

That said, in the absence of something to occupy me last night, I took it out again and actually made some progress, finishing off the embroidered bedding to the left of the quilt and starting on the end of the bed to the right.  But, now begins the long debate of what to do with her hair... I always envisaged a sea of French Knots, I don't know if I have the patience.

My little helper... hinderer ;o)
In all honesty, if I ever plan to finish it (current thinking is that if the 11 yr old is ever to see it finished, she would be married with children and I'd be finishing it for my granddaughter!) I may decide to take a panel out or separate them into smaller, more workable pieces.  However, at least it has seen the light of day again, and is making a serious bid for inclusion back in the to-do pile... in between the Elizabethan costume pieces that I still need to have finished for October that is.  Lets see if it's not another couple of years before I mention it again!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

It's been a very busy weekend!

The Visit: my brother, his wife, nephew Alfie and niece Lottie (collectively the T's), came down from Stafford for their first visit to our little cottage.  M and C have just asked me to be Lottie's Godmother and they were staying for the birthday BBQ so it was a special visit.   It was good to see them and lovely to spend time with Alfie and Lottie.  Pirates vs Dinosaurs went particularly well, until Captain Hook lost his head and Mr Sneed, both his arms.

The BBQ:  Saturday was a chaotic mix of shopping, cooking and generally tidying up in preparation for our Summer BBQ.  I swept the lawn and the bunting came out... Finn was very helpful.

Whilst the family T relaxed and enjoyed the sun.

We all hoped that Lottie might have a nap on the lawn, until Megs beat her to it.   Funnily enough, Lottie doesn't settle when she's having her face or feet licked!  Not that I think Lottie would have settled for long though, she was far too interested in everything that was going on.

The birthday BBQ was a roaring success.  We are so lucky with our friends.  Everyone contributed and helped, and although they thanked us for the good night had by all, we couldn't have done it without some seriously wonderful people pitching in.  The lovely Mrs B cooked up a storm; K & M brought their famous Bombay Potatoes and Coleslaw; D from the pub lent us a BBQ, furniture and some serious cooking expertise; and the other guys contributed more food (see the gorgeous Pavova below) and drinks than we could have ever hoped to consume in one night - though we gave it a good go!

After days of unsettled weather, the sun shone, the wind was nothing more than a gentle breeze and for several glorious, chaotic hours, our little house burst at the seams with children playing, people chatting and laughing, good food and loud music.  It was a genuine pleasure to have been part of bringing it all together.  Finn proved himself to be quite the party pup and Megs, in true dobe style, watched it all swirl around her... and occasionally got lucky and was given a leftover sausage.  We finished the evening, as we do all our parties, in the pub, playing "killer" pool and enjoying a surprise visit from the marvellous Mr S (who just happened to be passing by) before finally calling it quits at about 1.30 this morning.

The Garage: the best cure for any post-party fog is a good spring clean; or at least that's what we have been trying to convince ourselves of!  Anyone who knows the minutiae of  our life, knows that our garage has been a nuisance from the day we moved in.  It could be a great space, it's large and light and has a stunning view out into the churchyard, if only it didn't leak from every surface!  We have lost so much stuff to water damage, from leaks in places that you couldn't imagine, that it has become our bête noire.  Today was the day that we were finally going to sort the last of the things that needed to be disposed of and long, sweaty, tiring story short, this is the final result.  It won't mean much to you I know, but this neat, clean and tidy garage feels like something of a victory!  We just have to hope the weather holds a little longer and we can work on some of those damn leaks.

The Room: it is a fact that the lovely Mrs B is the 11yr old's second mum.  They even look the spit of each other.  It is a relationship that I value greatly, as Mrs B is some of the things that I have always wanted to be; outgoing, amazingly generous, vivacious... the list goes on and the 11 yr old will learn a lot from her.  And so, in Florida, they came up with a plan.  The 11 yr old's recently rejigged and redecorated room needed a little makeover to give the 11 yr old some much needed closet and makeup space.  They came up with the plan, I sighed, they knew I couldn't ignore it and, one floor plan later (just to check that this pie in the sky idea would actually fit in the space provided), it was deemed a rather good idea after all - I know when I'm beat! ;o)  Now Mrs B is not responsible for the new (not quite) double bed which arrived today; the 11 yr old and I can take the credit for that. In truth, a bed that size seemed a little daft at first, but you only get one childhood room and I have such fond memories of mine that I want her to have that same opportunity.  So, as long as it was not too big (and not too small) I was happy to agree.  When I found this one, an old size double bed, repainted white (saves me a job!), I knew that it would be just perfect for her room.  So, following a morning of hard labour, I spent the afternoon putting up her new bed and starting on the redecorating.  She still needs a mattress and bedding, and a lot more painting on my part, but the snuggle says it all.

The Pups: and just as I sat down to relax, the pups decided to play.  If you've never seen a dobe and a chihuahua play before, it's a sight and a lesson in gentleness and bravery.  On me, on the sofa, on the floor, under the sofa, up and down the stairs, in the garden, the kitchen and the dining room... they didn't stop for over an hour.

Then daddy came home and, of course, they were good as gold!  Either that, or just plain shattered... happy, sleepy, pups.

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